Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The mayor of the London Borough of Camden, England, was arrested yesterday on suspicion of benefit fraud. Omar Faruque Ansari was taken from Camden Town Hall by police to Holborn police station over allegations that he was wrongfully claiming disability benefits. After four hours of questioning, he was released on bail to return in March.

Today, Ansar said that he was sure that he would be cleared of any wrongdoing. “It is a very political thing. When you are mayor of Camden, you are a very trusting figure. Someone is trying to smear me”, he added. He is reported to receive £474 (about US$765) per month in disability benefits, after complications following a neck operation in 1995 – this was needed for injuries he received fighting for Bangladesh against Pakistan in the 1970s, he explained. “I’ve never even had a parking ticket in my life, so this is very distressing”, he commented.

The allegations appear to be unrelated to the mayor’s council work, a spokesman for Camden said. He refused to comment further on “allegations relating to the personal lives of [the council’s] members”.

Ansari, 55, moved to the UK in 1960 and has been mayor of Camden since May 2009, after joining the Liberal Democrats in 2006. He has been suspended as mayor and from the Liberal Democrat group while the investigation is ongoing.

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